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Online Pharmacies Give Chemists Hard Time in India

Penelitian - Online pharmacies picking up business in India in recent years, it's a hard time for chemists who claim they are eating into their businesses, especially in urban areas by offering huge discounts and doorstep delivery.

Chemists across country, particularly in Delhi and its adjoining cities like Noida and Gurgaon, observed a one-day strike Friday, which was called by the All India Organization of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD) against the mushrooming of online pharmacies. They claim that there are no guidelines at present on what medicines are being sold online.

Penelitian Online Pharmacies Give Chemists Hard Time in India

"This is a grave issue and puts public health at risk," said Surendar Duggal, vice-president of the AIOCD.

The bone of contention between chemists and online pharmacies is actually the huge discounts that the latter offer, as much as 40 percent as against 10-15 per cent that wholesalers offer. This is despite the fact that drug prices are regulated by the government.

"The online pharmacies sell drugs, including sleeping pills, without confirming the authenticity of prescriptions. There is no check whatsoever on who buys what. Even young children and teenage girls can order banned medicines and this increases risk of drug abuse," said Ashok Duggal, owner of Capital Pharmacy in Delhi.

"Moreover, the huge discounts offered by online pharmacies make us suspicious. How can they offer such discounts when the drug prices are regulated by the Indian government," Duggal added.

However, convenience of delivery and timing are the reasons why patients are attracted towards online medicine portals, without checking their authenticity.

"I am a diabetic and work long hours at an IT company. I do not get time to go to medical stores and it is very easy to simply order my insulin injections and other medicines online," said Deepa Sharma, an IT executive.

"They get delivered in office or at home, depending on where I am and at what time. That is why I got hooked to ordering medicines online," Sharma said.

Those who order medicines from a distance for family members or friends cited online medicine purchase as a blessing.

"My parents stay in Mumbai while I am based out of Gurgaon. It is easy for me to keep a check on their medicines and order them online. They get delivered to their house and saves them the pain from going to medical shops. Moreover, we get more discounts on online medicines," said Gayatri Khare, a software developer.

However, chemist store owners are not amused at the debate over convenience.

"If the government lets online portals run, we will be reduced only for emergency purposes in future. You will only see medical shops in hospitals then. We follow all the stipulated rules and regulations, but these online pharmacies hardly adhere to the same," said Varun Mehta, owner of Mehta Medicines in Delhi.

"On an average, a chemist gets to earn a maximum of 25 percent behind the sale of single medicine. These online pharmacies offer an easy entry of drug mafias or those of crony capitalists who now want to enter this market at the cost of health of the general public," Mehta added.

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